Reading so many books then must be a fine-line you walk, between using them as an advantage to write something new and unusual, based on your knowledge, and having them be a discouragement, knowing that everything you can think of has already been done. Do you feel either of these with yourself?
You know, I haven't felt a lot of discouragement knowing that all the basic book plots are taken because I can add my own unique flavor to whatever story I'm telling. This is especially true when writing historical fiction -- every event in history has had countless books already written about it. The trick for me as an author is to come up with an angle that's unusual. Sure, someone else may have come up with that same angle, but they won't bring a Tristi flavor to it because, let's face it, they're not Tristi. Every author has their own voice, their own perception, their own imagination. While five thousand authors could sit down to write a book all on the same subject, they will end up essentially different because all five thousand of those people are individuals.
Another way to get around everything that's already been done is to ask yourself, "What if?" Say you've got the basic Boy-meets-Girl premise. We need to up the stakes. What if she's dying? What if she's not only dying, but is being slowly poisoned? Okay, now what if it's the boy's own mother, who's jealous of their relationship and doesn't want him to ever marry and leave home? Let's bump it up a notch and say, what if the mother has not just targeted this girl, but other girls he's dated? In fact, what if she's a serial killer? Take the basic scenario and then start throwing every strange twist and turn you can in there. You'll know when you've gotten a little too weird and need to rein in.
Josi Kilpack says that to build conflict, you've got to get your characters really miserable. She compares it to putting them up a tree, and then throwing things at them. Then, once they're begging to get down, you set the tree on fire. Then you can end the story, but not until those characters have really been through a lot. It's what you put them through and how they respond to it that makes your book different from everyone else's.
So, no, it doesn't discourage me. I have not yet read a book that's exactly like one I'm outlining. With the 100-300 books a year that I read, that's a pretty amazing thing, but when you take into consideration how individual we all are, and that we were each given our own, unique spark, it's not so strange.
Thanks for these cool questions -- I love really digging into them. Got any more??